Season 2017/18 has not even begun yet, the teams are still analysing the full length of their squads, especially the three dominant ones, in order to determine who stays, who gets loaned out and who, simply, does not have the ability to compete with the best players stationed in Portugal. But so much has happened in the backstage of Portuguese football, that one thing is guaranteed, this season will be tense and Benfica will have to fend off attacks coming from everywhere, both inside and outside the squared pitch.
The whole of the country was shocked to know that Porto’s Media Director had in his possession stolen emails – how he got them remains a mystery – from members of Benfica’s board to the president of the referee’s association, in order to determine which judges are worth to referee Benfica’s matches. For the whole of a month, and while Confederations Cup was been put in the back burner, more and more emails started coming out, and this time going up in Benfica’s power ladder, even implying their president Luis Filipe Vieira.
Of course this whole issue raises more questions than it answers, and it definitely will mark the whole league. How can the refs that are involved – even unknowingly – be able to be the judges and the more respected person on the pitch if there are any questions on their integrity? How can these people, these normal people, live with the pressure of knowing that any single mistake that they make will be blown over, the reasons for that mistake dissected? Porto and Benfica have also threaten to take the accusations to bigger instances, but so far there have been no developments. There are investigations, and this issue promises to be one to go through the whole season in the background.
Liga Nos will also have video-referee in all of its matches, in a decision that proves that some of the Portuguese football actors want to take the country forward in terms of the sports thinking, but there’s the fear that this will only make the debate go more around the men in black (or yellow now, really) and less around the players that actually play the game.
In terms of transfers, Benfica has been active in selling, Porto has been the same though more to oblige with FFP, and Sporting is making almost an all-in in order to achieve the league title that’s been evading them for 15 years now. The 4x Champions lost half of their consistent defence to the big clubs in Europe (Ederson – Man.City, Lindelof – Man.United, Nelson Semedo – Barcelona) and will have to find replacements that will be able to keep the standards these three have left. The signs in the friendly against Young Boys were not great, with Benfica being thrashed 5-1.
Porto has also been selling, but this more for need than for profit, as FFP has been threatening to leave the 2004 UCL Champions outside European competitions for a year. Andre Silva and Ruben Neves are the big names to have been sold, and Porto is also the only of the 3 big clubs to have changed manager, meaning there are new processes to learn and a new motivation. Let’s see if it’s Sergio Conceicao the one that will be able to put Porto back on the top of Portuguese football.
Outside of the email confusion, and also avoiding selling their crown jewels, Sporting looks, once again, much invested in getting the league title. Jorge Jesus has, once again, demanded some strong reinforcements and the acquisition of Mathieu, Fabio Coentrao and Doumbia, players with a lot of European experience seems to indicate that Sporting will stop at nothing to get their goals. Sporting is also the team most ahead in their preparations, as a lot of the season will be played in August where the Leoes will have to endure the Champions League playoff, probably as non-seeded, to try and get into the big competition but also, more than that, to get the millions of euros that come with it.
Liga Nos will start on a Wednesday (9th of August) and three weeks before, we are sure that the season will be hot and nervy. It looks like Porto and Sporting, both with their ways, will form an unlikely alliance in order to make Benfica step down as reigning and almost undisputed champions of Portugal. Of course it will be a fragile wedding, as in the end there can be only one. And Benfica has been on the top and they know the attacks will come from everywhere. And that is the merit of Benfica in the last few years.
The Eagle keeps getting shot at, but with its grace it avoids the fire balls sent by Dragons and the claws of the Lion. But will the Eagle be evading their opponents for ever? That will be answered in the next months…